POLICY CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR GLOBAL
MOBILE PERSONAL COMMUNICATIONS BY SATELLITE:
THE ICO VIEWPOINT
Mr. Bob Phillips, Vice-President, Spectrum, Standards and
ICO Global Communications
Global mobile personal communications services (GMPCS) are uniquely capable of serving the long-sought ideal of absolutely ubiquitous telecommunications service by using hand-held portable terminals. Their use of non-geostationary orbits means that they are inherently able to offer a global service. Alone among telecommunications systems, they can enable a mobile user at virtually any point on earth to call and be called by persons anywhere else. Terrestrial mobile systems cannot achieve this in practice; it is not economically feasible to install their infrastructure in areas that are uninhabited or sparsely inhabited, or where there is not a sufficient geographic concentration of economic activity. Neither can some other satellite-based services provide ubiquitous coverage, because their user terminals use directional antennae and require the terminal to be "set-up" before use. GMPCS user terminals are expected to be pocket-sized handsets with dual-mode capability with cellular/PCS using an omnidirectional antenna.
The system from ICO Global Communications is a leading example of this kind of global mobile communications technical capability, which can greatly extend the coverage afforded by other telecommunications systems. It can fill gaps in terrestrial coverage, which include areas that are geographically remote or inaccessible, as well as providing a capacity for being the universal roaming "standard" for international travellers. More important, GMPCS can provide service in areas which, though not remote geographically, are at present unserved or radically under-served by other systems: many such areas exist in rural regions and other sparsely populated areas including those in developing countries.
GMPC CAN BENEFIT DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
In developing countries, GMPCS are expected to provide significant net benefits for the terrestrial public telecommunications operators (PTO). Most GMPCS traffic will be newly generated traffic that could not otherwise be carried by any network. Every call from a PTO customer to a GMPCS user who could not otherwise be reached at all will increase the revenues of the terrestrial networks. Similarly, every call from a GMPCS user to a customer of a terrestrial PTO will increase the latter's revenues, because part of the charge to the originating GMPCS user will be passed on to one or more terrestrial PTOs in the form of interconnect charges.
Aside from the benefits of GMPCS to individual users and to terrestrial PTOs, it is vital to consider also the economic and social benefits to countries. Expansion in and improvement of a country's telecommunications facilities increases the revenues of the telecommunications sector, and thus directly boosts the national income. Improvements in communications tend to raise productivity, attract international investment and enhance international competitiveness in other sectors of the national economy, with consequent large indirect increases in national income.
GMPCS NEEDS INTERNATIONAL CO-OPERATION
In view of their unique attributes, such as global reach and handset portability, GMPCS need a distinctive approach to national regulation. ICO believes that existing regulatory rules may be sufficiently flexible to accommodate certain aspects of GMPCS, but that others will need to be adapted to take account of the new situation arising from the emergence of a global mobile communications service.
Regulatory policies and rules are for the most part made by national regulators, and will continue to be made largely by them rather than by any regional or international agency. Regulatory policies and rules differ in different countries and will continue to do so. Against this background, a degree of international convergence among policies and practices of national regulatory authorities will still be necessary for the successful deployment of global mobile services. For example, the full potential benefits offered by the physical mobility and versatility of GMPCS handsets can only be achieved if national policies on type approval and licences for such handsets are sufficiently convergent. The necessary convergence can be achieved through incremental, flexible and informal kinds of international consultation and co-operation. Major innovations in international institutions and agreements in this domain are neither necessary nor feasible within the time horizon of the first generation of GMPCS.
There are currently four main GMPCS systems under development with varying time horizons for scheduled operational and commercial launches. The current market forecasts would suggest that the marketplace is not the limiting factor to the number of players that can operate global mobile services. In addition to global GMPCS providers, there is likely to be a major role for local entrepreneurs in setting up and driving the channels to market - in determining the shape and success of the wholesale and retail distribution network.
GENERAL GOALS FOR REGULATION OF TELECOMMUNICATIONS
If we are to have telecommunications services that bring true choice and value to customers, then the regulatory policies should have the following key characteristics:
Although the global mobile satellite operators such as ICO have certain new and in some respects special regulatory needs, ICO believes that these needs can be met by convergence of national regulations, fostered by international co-operation aimed to suitably adapt existing regulatory policies. ICO's views are consistent with the aims of the ITU. Like other global mobile operators, ICO believes that the first World Telecommunications Policy Forum of the ITU will play a critical role in paving the regulatory path toward successful functioning of global mobile communications operations and service provision.
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